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Are prices for wind turbines going to come down any time soon?
 
Wind Energy Market Developments PDF Print E-mail
In order to take advantage of its technological advance, the European wind energy industry is currently focused on developing its offshore wind potentials. Although challenging from a technical standpoint and even if it is not applicable to every EU country, this option enables developers to overcome most on-shore limitations hampering the land expansion of wind power. Since this industry has thrived on subsidized premium prices paid for wind electricity available in Europe, it must be noted that the costly offshore wind option tends to reinforce further the justifications for sustaining high prices.

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E-112 Wind Turbine tower segment of 180 tons (Enercon)
Consequently, the current research in European wind turbine designs is focused on the development of larger machines. Per unit installed, these are likely to limit the costs their offshore foundations. As the power of a wind turbine is multiplied by four when its rotor diameter is doubled, added productivity can be obtained. A reduced number of wind turbines will impact maintenance costs as well. This can be particularly relevant considering their more difficult access and operations in corrosive marine environments.

Under such circumstances, neither wind turbines exports nor their integration to support the developing world's growing energy needs will be achieved. While new wind installation rates on the European continent are now limited, some 38% of the world's 318 Gigawatt of wind capacity remained in operation on EU grounds in 2013 (source: GWEC, WWEA).

The Sahara Trade Winds provide an ideal setting for wind technologies to expand into developing countries. Within Europe, high offshore wind costs and the saturation to further wind developments by fossil generating capacities have raised some levels of concerns within the industry. Indeed, the consistent drop of wind turbine orders coming from Germany and Spain paved the way to larger markets such as the USA and China with 61 and 91 GW of respective installed capacities. From the year 2010, China remained the global wind energy leader, producing and installing approximately 50 % of the World's wind capacities.

Before expanding to the US and Asian markets, the wind power industry initiated in Denmark, Germany and subsequently Spain, demonstrated the importance that the Atlantic trade winds will have. Within the aforementioned context these integrated industrial models are likely to serve as a basis in support of North Africa's economic development. On the Sahara desert coastline, large wind power generation facilities provide ideal grounds for a capacity built-up, enabling an entire wind energy industry to be transferred. Based on sound economics and the creation of local jobs, the Sahara Wind project will enable wind industries to spread globally and more sustainably into the developing world.

The Spanish and Chinese wind energy industries demonstrated that the transfer of manufacturing facilities from Germany and Denmark enabled significant cost reductions on domestically installed wind power capacities. Building upon such experience, the price of wind power generated in exceptionally good wind regions through dedicated machines, manufactured and erected locally at lower labor costs are bound to be more competitive.

The integration of wind energy in such an economical setting will cover the transfer of industrial capacities and improve sustainable development perspectives of the region. An enhanced access to electricity provides overall economic benefits that are likely to contribute to the social stability of rather desolate areas. Within today's tumultuous regional context, the energy security of North Africa and its European northern neighbors would be thereby significantly reinforced.

Since wind turbines represent over 80% of the investments in the Sahara Wind Project (20% remaining for the HVDC line), the development of low-cost dedicated wind turbines could have a considerable financial impact on the economics of the entire Project, improving its competitiveness. Several Projects of the size of Sahara Wind's are currently duplicated in China's Inner-Mongolia region, and considered in the Middle-Western parts of the United States. These are likely to set precedents enabling manufacturing of wind turbine parts and components to take place locally. Such level of project integration opens a critical debate on how to comprehensively address the growing electrification needs of most developing countries.

 
 
   
   
     
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